Posted on April 13, 1998 in Washington Watch
This is an article I never thought I would have to write.
It was 50 years ago that the Zionist terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi (Stern Gang) committed a massacre in the Arab village of Deir Yassin.
Now, 50 years later, the President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Morton Klein, is waging a campaign in the United States denying that a massacre took place.
Not unlike the historical revisionists who deny the Holocaust, Klein’s work “Deir Yassin: History of a Lie,” has the appearance of scholarship. It is heavily footnoted, and documented and relentlessly plods through every quote and claim made about the events at Deir Yassin.
Klein’s methods are similar to the Holocaust deniers. He uses half quotes, specious arguments and ad hominem attacks in an effort to confound an ordinary reader. He admits what cannot be denied, but minimizes its importance. In the end he claims that Deir Yassin was only a minor but necessary skirmish. It was fought Klein says, to eliminate a hostile Arab presence that was threatening to the Jews of Jerusalem. And its reality he says was distorted by a combination of Arab propagandists, Jewish establishment enemies of the Stern and Irgun Gangs, Jewish leftists and the exaggerated boastings of those who were there (whom, he says, only made their claims as a part of their psychological propaganda campaign against the Arabs).
Klein’s purpose is larger, of course, than the discrediting of Deir Yassin. He and his movement seeks to rewrite history by eliminating from its record one of Zionism’s more odious events. Klein knows that the terrorism at Deir Yassin did not stand-alone. As modern Israeli historians now acknowledge (and as Arabs have always known), Deir Yassin was but one piece of a concentrated Zionist strategy to terrorize Arabs in order to expel them on the way to depopulating their villages in order to either repopulate them with new Jewish immigrants or to erase them from the map.
All this would be frightening enough if Klein were merely a liar and a deliberate distorter of fact. But the reality is even more frightening. He is a fanatic true believer for whom Zionism can do no wrong.
And Klein is not alone. He heads an organization, which he has effectively used, to intimidate opponents. By preying on fear, Klein has silenced foes in the media, in politics and even within the Jewish community. He has, over the past decade won minor battles, forcing newspapers to change maps, forcing Jewish organizations to disinvite speakers, forcing politicians to change their votes. Now it appears he has trained his guns on a major campaign to erase a massacre from history and intimidate those who would resist.
That Klein’s efforts must be combated goes without saying. If his campaign goes unanswered, he will win and politicians, the media and even historians may come to question either the fact that a massacre did take place at Deir Yassin or that it was an important component in the effort to terrorize some Palestinians to leave their homes.
In this context, it is important to note that a small but potentially important effort is underway to defend history. “Deir Yassin Remembered” is a new organization dedicated to preserving the memory of that outrage by publishing materials, both documentary and commentary, and by constructing a monument to the massacre in the place where the village of Deir Yassin once stood.
The founder of “Deir Yassin Remembered” Dan McGowan, a professor at Hobart College in New York, was a guest on my ANA weekly call-in television show “A Capital View.” Not only did we have the opportunity to commemorate the massacre and discuss the work of the committee, but the program also provided a number of survivors the opportunity to call-in and share their reminiscences with our nationwide audience.
One caller had been a young girl at the time of the massacre. She described in harrowing detail what she saw and survived. Her grandmother, uncle and two-and-a-half-year-old brother killed–the rest of her family was forced to flee. Another, a male nurse, recalled seeing survivors, prisoners of war, paraded through Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Still another reported how these same prisoners were taken to a quarry outside of the village and shot in cold blood.
Beginning next month Arab American organizations will take the campaign one step further. A huge quilt has been created with one large hand-embroidered patch for each of the 418 Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel since 1948. The “Quilt Project” will travel throughout the month of May across the United States. It will be greeted by rallies and events in major U.S. cities.
This effort to remember and defend our past is a vital component to the struggle to create justice in the future. The ZOA effort to deny and rewrite history is a continuation of the Zionist campaign to deny not only justice to the Palestinians, but their very history and existence as well.
Deir Yassin was a massacre. There are too many witnesses, Arab, Jewish, and European to deny that fact. But it was more than that; it was a deliberate act of terrorism with a clear political objective. It was callously used. After the massacre, Haganah sound trucks drove through Arab areas warning “unless you leave your homes, the fate of Deir Yassin will be your fate.” As Menachem Begin himself declared in the The Revolt,
“Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of ‘Irgun butchery’ were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrolled stampede. Of the almost 800,000 who lived on the present territory of the State of Israel, only some 165,000 are still there. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be overestimated.”
It was an offensive campaign to conquer Arab land and depopulate (now called “ethnic cleansing”) Arab villages. Noted David Ben Gurion in his Rebirth and Destiny of Israel,
“Until the British left (May 15, 1948) no Jewish settlement, however remote, was entered or seized by the Arabs, while the Haganah…captured many Arab positions and liberated Tiberia, and Haifa, Jaffa, and Safad…. So on the day of destiny, that part of Palestine where the Haganah could operate was almost clear of Arabs.”
Add to this, the admission of Yitzhak Rabin that he ordered the forced expulsion of 40,000 Arabs from the Palestinian village of Lydda. Said Rabin “The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age…implement immediately.”
The same has been admitted by Yigal Allon, who headed the Palmach. His goal, he wrote was “the need to clean the upper Galilee of Arabs.” His tactic was to use fear and terror to force Arabs to flee.
Forced expulsion and terrorism defined the Palestinian exodus of 700,000. Ethnic cleansing and erasing villages defined the formation of the Jewish state in 1948. This we have always known. This some Israelis now admit. And this is what Klein and his Likud cohorts now seek to deny.
Fifty years later in the midst of a dying peace process, the ZOA seeks to deny and intimidate others into denying these historic facts so as to continue to deny justice to the Palestinians in their ancestral homeland.
To demand justice, we must defend the past.
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